Browsing Month December, 2013

Woodstove and Fireplace Safety Tips

By at December 2, 2013 | 12:00 am | 0 Comment

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Chimney Safety:

  • Have your chimney, pipes, and/or wood stove inspected and cleaned by a chimney specialist annually.  I recommend doing this well before the heating season in case repairs are needed.  A chimney specialist will also have more availability and they sometimes offer off-season discounts!
  • Inspect your pipe or chimney monthly for damage and obstructions (like squirrel or bird nests).
  • Creosote (which is a byproduct of burning wood) regularly builds up in chimneys and pipes.  They should be cleaned out frequently to prevent deadly chimney and roof fires.  More than ¼ inch of creosote is considered dangerous and should be cleaned out before your next burn.
  • Also watch for soot buildup in the chimney of your wood-burning fireplace. Soot is softer than creosote, flammable and should be cleaned out of the chimney regularly.
  • Never burn trash, paper, or green wood as these materials cause heavy creosote buildup and some burns are hard to control. Burn seasoned hardwoods!
  • Install a spark shield/arrestor or wire basket on top of your chimney or vent pipe.
  • A chimney/vent pipe should be at least 3 feet higher than the roof peak or any tall, nearby objects.
  • Remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues, or vents.
  • Keep roof clear of leaves, pine needles, and other debris.

chimney sweeper

Indoor Safety

  • Never start a fire with gasoline or other flammable liquids- they can explode or flare up!
  • Look into buying a special chimney fire extinguisher and keep one on hand for every fireplace or stove.
  • You should also have a standard ABC extinguisher.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and inside and outside of sleeping areas.  Test smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. There are also long-life smoke alarms on the market.
  • Allow ashes to completely cool before disposing of them.  Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep this container at least 10 feet from your house or other structures.  It’s okay to douse and saturate ashes with water.
  • Never leave your fire unattended. Extinguish fires before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Practice a home escape plan with your family.
  • Keep any flammables at least 3 feet away
  • Supervise children whenever a fire is burning.

fire extinguisher

smoke detector

Specifics for Woodstoves:

  • If you have a wood stove make sure it is in good working order.  Check the iron and steel components for cracks or degradation (caused by heat) and replace those that have gone bad.  Close a dollar bill in the door at various spots around the door’s frame.  If you can easily pull it out then the gaskets are worn and need to be replaced.
  • If you have a catalytic wood stove then it’s important to remove and check the catalytic element.  A light gray or tan color is good but a dark black color can mean it’s no longer working properly.  Also vacuum or lightly brush off any ash that has accumulated.
  • Stovepipe can deteriorate over time, so you should check the soundness of your pipe on a regular basis.  You can do this by squeezing the pipe (which should not be crushable).  If you can crush the walls then creosote has eaten away too much of the metal pipe and this will need to be replaced.
  • Check for creosote accumulation every 2 weeks.  This is done by peering into the system with a flashlight and by tapping on the pipe sections with a metal object.  Once you are accustomed to the sound a clean pipe makes, you should then be able to distinguish the dull thud of a dirty one.
  • Keep air inlets on your woodstove open for complete combustion and less creosote accumulation.
  • Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves (like brick or stone).
  • Artificial logs (made of wax and sawdust) should never be used in wood stoves.

This is what creosote looks like…

creosote

Specifics for Fireplaces:

  • Clear the area around your hearth of debris, decorations, and flammable materials.
  • Use a heavy mesh screen when your fire is burning and your glass doors are open.  This will help to catch rolling logs and will catch flying sparks.
  • Having your glass doors open ensures that the fire receives enough air for complete combustion (which helps to minimize creosote build-up in your chimney).
  • Hearth rugs protect your floor from flying sparks!

fireplace mesh screen

 

 

 

 

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